ISU men’s golf looks to turn a new page at Big 12 Championship


Senior Scott Fernandez  practices putting at the ISU golf performance center on U.S Highway 69 just south of Ames on Sept. 21, 2013.

Mike Randleman

In recent years, the Big 12 Championship has not been kind to the ISU men’s golf team.

In 2012, the Cyclones finished in a tie for seventh place, and in 2013 fell even further, finishing last out of nine teams.

Unlike in the past two seasons, however, Iowa State will enter the Big 12 Championship as a top-50 team, coming in at No. 47 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

With a roster that boasts a combined 15 individual top-10 finishes and four team runner-up finishes on the season, the Cyclones have a better chance than ever to turn a new page in the Big 12.

“It’ll be exciting to measure up to some of those top teams, to compare where we’re at and to see the work we’ve put in,” said junior Scott Fernandez, who tied for seventh place individually in last year’s event.

As Fernandez alluded to, the event will be a chance for Iowa State to measure up against its Big 12 competition, given how few times it has seen its Big 12 foes this season.

After 10 regular season events, Iowa State owns a 5-2 comparative record against the Big 12, but has yet to see the likes of No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 15 Oklahoma or No. 18 Texas.

The Cyclones played the 91st-ranked schedule according to Golfweek, only competing against seven top-25 teams [resulting in a 2-5 record], a stat that will soon change after competing against seven top-100 teams that feature 12 top-100 players.

Despite the strength of the competition they will be up against, players said they relish the opportunity to compete against some of the best.

“To have the opportunity to compete against some of the top programs is something we look forward to,” said freshman Nick Voke. “Programs that have produced [professional] players like Jordan Spieth [from Texas], Rickie Fowler [from Oklahoma State]; it’s a great opportunity to try to get to that level, too.”

Though Iowa State has work to do to be among the giants of college golf, a berth in the NCAA Regional championships has likely been secured. Iowa State is ranked higher than the 2011-12 team that earned an at-large bid and features four runner-up finishes on its resume.

Along with the freedom to focus on winning a conference championship over worrying about potential NCAA prospects, the Cyclones will have the advantage of having the most experience at Whispering Pines Golf Club than any other team in the field.

Both Fernandez and junior Sam Daley competed at Whispering Pines at the 2012 Big 12 Championship and at the 2013 Spirit International exhibition event last October. Freshman Ruben Sondjaja also competed at the Spirit.

Though Iowa State has the longest distance to travel to Trinity, Texas, three of its starters will already have several competitive rounds at Whispering Pines under their belts this season, a claim no other team can make.

Not only is it a familiar course, but also one that Iowa State’s highest-ranked player, No. 107 Fernandez, enjoys.

As a longer hitter, the 7,473-yard track plays to the strengths of a player like Fernandez whose strength is driving and attacking the par-5s.

“From playing there a few times, I have a lot of experience there and it’s definitely one of my favorite courses, just the way it sets up,” Fernandez said. “Some of the guys know the course too, and we all really like it. We’ll be ready to go.”

Fernandez and No. 47 Iowa State will be grouped with No. 29 Baylor and No. 37 Texas Tech for rounds one and two on Friday. Third round play will take place Saturday, with the fourth and final round played Sunday.